Lugh

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This article is about the Irish deity. For other subjects with similar names, see Lug (disambiguation). For the city in Somalia, see Luuq.
1905 illustration of Lugh's bloodthirsty magical spear by H. R. Millar

Lugh or Lug (/luɣ/; modern Irish: /lu:/) is an Irish deity represented in mythological texts as a hero and High King of the distant past. He is known by the epithets Lámhfhada (pronounced /'la:wad̪ˠə/, meaning "long arm" or "long hand"), for his skill with a spear or sling, Ildánach ("skilled in many arts"), Samhildánach ("Equally skilled in many arts"), Lonnbeimnech ("fierce striker" or perhaps "sword-shouter") and Macnia ("boy hero"), and by the matronymic mac Ethlenn or mac Ethnenn ("son of Ethliu or Ethniu"). He is a reflex of the pan-Celtic god Lugus, and his Welsh counterpart is Lleu Llaw Gyffes, "The Bright One with the Strong Hand".

Lugh in Irish tradition[edit]

Lugh
Member of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Tricephale Carnavalet.jpg
Abodes
Weapons
Animals
Consorts
Parents
Children
Festivals

Birth[edit]

Lugh's father is Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and his mother is Ethniu, daughter of Balor, of the Fomorians. In Cath Maige Tuired their union is a dynastic marriage following an alliance between the Tuatha Dé and the Fomorians.[1] In the Lebor Gabála Érenn Cian gives the boy to Tailtiu, queen of the Fir Bolg, in fosterage.[2]

A folktale told to John O'Donovan by Shane O'Dugan of Tory Island in 1835 recounts the birth of a grandson of Balor who grows up to kill his grandfather. The grandson is unnamed, his father is called Mac Cinnfhaelaidh and the manner of his killing of Balor is different, but it has been taken as a version of the birth of Lugh, and was adapted as such by Lady Gregory. In this tale, Balor hears a druid's prophecy that he will be killed by his own grandson. To prevent this he imprisons his only daughter in the Tór Mór (great tower) of Tory Island, cared for by twelve women, who are to prevent her ever meeting or even learning of the existence of men. On the mainland, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh owns a magic cow who gives such abundant milk that everyone, including Balor, wants to possess her. While the cow is in the care of Mac Cinnfhaelaidh's brother Mac Samthainn, Balor appears in the form of a little red-haired boy and tricks him into giving him the cow. Looking for revenge, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh calls on a leanan sídhe (fairy woman) called Biróg, who transports him by magic to the top of Balor's tower, where he seduces Eithne. In time she gives birth to triplets, which Balor gathers up in a sheet and sends to be drowned in a whirlpool. The messenger drowns two of the babies, but unwittingly drops one child into the harbour, where he is rescued by Biróg. She takes him to his father, who gives him to his brother, Gavida the smith, in fosterage.[3]

There may be further triplism associated with his birth. His father in the folktale is one of a triad of brothers, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh, Gavida and Mac Samthainn, and his father in the medieval texts, Cian, is often mentioned together with his brothers Cú and Cethen.[4] Two characters called Lugaid, a popular medieval Irish name thought to derive from Lugh, have three fathers: Lugaid Riab nDerg (Lugaid of the Red Stripes) was the son of the three Findemna or fair triplets,[5] and Lugaid mac Con Roí was also known as mac Trí Con, "son of three hounds".[6] In Ireland's other great "sequestered maiden" story, the tragedy of Deirdre, the king's intended is carried off by three brothers, who are hunters with hounds.[7] The canine imagery continues with Cian's brother Cú ("hound"), another Lugaid, Lugaid Mac Con (son of a hound), and Lugh's son Cúchulainn ("Culann's Hound").[8] A fourth Lugaid was Lugaid Loígde, a legendary King of Tara and ancestor of (or inspiration for) Lugaid Mac Con.

Lugh joins the Tuatha Dé Danann[edit]

As a young man Lugh travels to Tara to join the court of king Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The doorkeeper will not let him in unless he has a skill with which to serve the king. He offers his services as a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorcerer, and a craftsman, but each time is rejected as the Tuatha Dé Danann already have someone with that skill. But when Lugh asks if they have anyone with all those skills simultaneously, the doorkeeper has to admit defeat, and Lugh joins the court and is appointed Chief Ollam of Ireland. He wins a flagstone-throwing contest against Ogma, the champion, and entertains the court with his harp. The Tuatha Dé Danann are at that time oppressed by the Fomorians, and Lugh is amazed how meekly they accept this. Nuada wonders if this young man could lead them to freedom. Lugh is given command over the Tuatha Dé Danann, and he begins making preparations for war.[9]

The sons of Tuireann[edit]

When the sons of Tuireann: Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba kill Lugh's father, Cian (who was in the form of a pig at the time), Lugh sets them a series of seemingly impossible quests as recompense. They achieve them all but are fatally wounded in completing the last one. Despite Tuireann's pleas, Lugh denies them the use of one of the items they have retrieved, a magic pigskin which heals all wounds. They die of their wounds and Tuireann dies of grief over their bodies.[10]

The Battle of Magh Tuireadh[edit]

Using the magic artifacts the sons of Tuireann have gathered, Lugh leads the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh against the Fomorians. Nuada is killed in the battle by Balor. Lugh faces Balor, who opens his terrible, poisonous eye that kills all it looks upon, but Lugh shoots a sling-stone that drives his eye out the back of his head, wreaking havoc on the Fomorian army behind. After the victory Lugh finds Bres, the half-Fomorian former king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, alone and unprotected on the battlefield, and Bres begs for his life. If he is spared, he promises, he will ensure that the cows of Ireland always give milk. The Tuatha Dé Danann refuse the offer. He then promises four harvests a year, but the Tuatha Dé Danann say one harvest a year suits them. But Lugh spares his life on the condition that he teach the Tuatha Dé Danann how and when to plough, sow and reap.[11]

Later life and death[edit]

Lugh instituted an event similar to the Olympic games called the Assembly of Talti which finished on Lughnasadh (1 August) in memory of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, at the town that bears her name (now Teltown, County Meath). He likewise instituted Lughnasadh fairs in the areas of Carman and Naas in honour of Carman and Nás, the eponymous tutelary goddess of these two regions. Horse races and displays of martial arts were important activities at all three fairs. However, Lughnasadh itself is a celebration of Lugh's triumph over the spirits of the Other World who had tried to keep the harvest for themselves. It survived long into Christian times and is still celebrated under a variety of names. Lúnasa is now the Irish name for the month of August.

According to a poem of the dindsenchas, Lugh was responsible for the death of Bres. He made 300 wooden cows, and filled them with a bitter, poisonous red liquid which was then "milked" into pails and offered to Bres to drink. Bres, who was under an obligation not to refuse hospitality, drank it down without flinching, and it killed him.[12]

Lugh is said to have invented the board game fidchell. He had a dog called Failinis.

He had several wives, including Buí and Nás, daughters of Ruadri, king of Britain. Buí lived and was buried at Knowth. Nás was buried at Naas, County Kildare, which is named after her. Lugh had a son, Ibic, by Nás.[13] His daughter or sister was Ebliu, who married Fintan. One of his wives, unnamed, had an affair with Cermait, son of the Dagda. Lugh killed him in revenge, but Cermait's sons, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine, killed Lugh in return, drowning him in Loch Lugborta. He had ruled for forty years.

Lugh in other cycles and traditions[edit]

  • In the Ulster Cycle he fathered Cúchulainn with the mortal maiden Deichtine. When Cúchulainn lay wounded after a gruelling series of combats during the Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley), Lugh appeared and healed his wounds over a period of three days.
  • In Baile in Scáil (The Phantom's Trance), a story of the Historical Cycle, Lugh appeared in a vision to Conn of the Hundred Battles. Enthroned on a daïs, he directed a beautiful woman called the Sovereignty of Ireland to serve Conn a portion of meat and a cup of red ale, ritually confirming his right to rule and the dynasty that would follow him.
  • In the Fenian Cycle the dwarf harper Cnú Deireóil claimed to be Lugh's son.
  • The Luigne, a people who inhabited Counties Meath and Sligo, claimed descent from him.

Lugh’s possessions[edit]

Lug possessed a number of magical items, retrieved by the sons of Tuirill Piccreo in Middle Irish redactions of the Lebor Gabála. Not all the items will be listed here. The late narrative Fate of the Children of Tuireann not only gives a list of items gathered for Lugh. The same romance also endows him with such gifts from the sea god Manannán as the sword Fragarach, the horse Enbarr (Aonbarr), the boat Scuabtuinne / Sguaba Tuinne (Ir.)(Wave-Sweeper).,[14] his armor and helmet.

Lug's Spear[edit]

The lore around Lug's Spear is traced as follows:

Four Treasures Spear of Lug[edit]

Lugh's spear (sleg), according to the text of The Four Jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was an insuperable spear,[15] taken to Ireland from Gorias (or Findias).[16]

Gae Assail[edit]

Lugh obtained the Spear of Assal (Ir: Gae Assail) as fine (éric) imposed on the children of Tuirill Piccreo (or Biccreo), according to the short account in Lebor Gabála Érenn (Poem LXV, 319)[16] which adds that the incantation "Ibar (Yew)" made the cast always hit its mark, and "Athibar (Re-Yew)" caused the spear to return.

Areadbhar[edit]

In a full narrative version called [A]oidhe Chloinne Tuireann (The Fate of the Children of Tuireann),[17][18] from copies no earlier than the 18th century, Lugh demands the spear named Ar-éadbair or Areadbhair (Early Mod. Irish Aɼéadḃaiɼ) which belonged to Pisear, king of Persia. Its tip had to be kept immersed in a pot of water to keep it from igniting, a property similar to the Lúin of Celtchar. This spear is also called "Slaughterer"[19] in translation.

Finest Yew of the Wood[edit]

There is yet another name that Lugh's spear goes by: "A [yew] tree, the finest of the wood" (Early Mod. Irish eó bo háille d'ḟíoḋḃaiḃ),[17] occurring in an inserted verse within The Fate of the Children of Tuireann. And "the famous yew of the wood" (ibar alai fhidbaidha) is also the name that Lugh's spear is called by in a tract which alleges that it, the Lúin of Celtchar and the spear Crimall that blinded Cormac Mac Airt were the one and the same weapon (tract in TCD MS 1336 (olim H 3. 17), col. 723, discussed in the Lúin page).[20]

Sling-stone[edit]

Lugh used the sling-stone (cloich tabaill) to slay his grandfather, Balor the Strong-Smiter in the Battle of Magh Tuired according to the brief accounts in the Lebor Gabála Érenn.[21] The narrative Cath Maige Tured, preserved in a unique 16th century copy, words it slightly different saying that Lugh used the sling-stone (here liic talma § 133, i.e. lía "stone" of the tailm "sling") to destroy the evil eye of Balor of the Piercing Eye (Bolur Birugderc).[22]

Tathlum[edit]

A certain poem recorded by O'Curry in English translation[23] says that the missile fired by Lugh was a tathlum (táthluib "(slingstone made of) cement").

Nature Myth Items[edit]

Lugh's projectile weapon whether a dart or missile was envisioned by symbolic of lightning-weapon T. F. O'Rahilly.[24] Lugh’s sling rod was the rainbow and the Milky Way which was called "Lugh's Chain". Unllike the rod-sling, Lugh had no need to wield the spear himself. It was alive and thirsted so for blood that only by steeping its head in a sleeping-draught of pounded fresh poppy seeds could it be kept at rest. When battle was near, it was drawn out; then it roared and struggled against its thongs, fire flashed from it, and it tore through the ranks of the enemy once slipped from the leash, never tired of slaying.[25]

Fragarach[edit]

Lugh is also seen girt with the Freagarthach (better known as Fragarach), the sword of Manannán, in the assembly of the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Fate of the Children of Tuireann.

Lugh’s horse(s) and magic boat[edit]

Lugh had a horse named Aenbharr which could fare over both land and sea. Like much of his equipment, it was furnished to him by the sea god Manannán mac Lir. When the Children of Tuireann asked to borrow this horse, Lugh begrudged them, saying it would not be proper to make a loan of a loan. Consequently Lugh was unable to refuse their request to use Lugh's currach (coracle) or boat, the Wave-Sweeper (Sguaba Tuinne (Ir.))[14]

In the Lebor Gabála,[26] Gainne & Rea were the names of the pair of horses belonging to the king of the isle of Sicily [on the (Tyrrhene sea)], which Lug demanded as éric from the sons of Tuirill Briccreo.

Lugh’s hound Failinis[edit]

Main article: Failinis

Failinis was the name of the whelp of the King of Ioruaidhe that Lugh demanded as éiric in the Oidhead Chloinne Tuireann. This concurs with the name of the hound mentioned in an "Ossianic Ballad,"[27] sometimes referred to by its opening line "Dám Thrír Táncatair Ille (They came here as a band of three)". In the ballad the hound is called Ṡalinnis (Shalinnis) or Failinis (in the Lismore text),[28] and belonged to a threesome from Iruaide whom the Fianna encounter. It is described as "the ancient grayhound.. that had been with Lugh of the Mantles, / Given him by the sons of Tuireann Bicreann;.."[29]

That hound of mightiest deeds,
Which was irresistible in hardness of combat,
Was better than wealth ever known,
A ball of fire every night.
Other virtues had that beautiful hound
(Better this property than any other property),
Mead or wine would grow of it,
Should it bathe in spring water.

O'Curry's excerpt ends here, but the subsequent verse runs "The three full-fledged heroes are called Sél, Donait and Domhnán. The dog of the fairest figure, Failinis was brought to Finn". These threesome also appear in Acallamh na Sénorach though in that work the wonder-dog is called Fer Mac.

Lugh's name and nature[edit]

Lugh's name has been interpreted as deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root *leuk-, "flashing light", and he is often surrounded by solar imagery, so from Victorian times he has often been considered a sun god, similar to the Greco-Roman Apollo though historically he is only ever equated with Mercury.[citation needed] He appears in folklore as a trickster, and in County Mayo thunderstorms were referred to as battles between Lugh and Balor, so he is sometimes considered a storm god: Alexei Kondratiev notes his epithet lonnbeimnech ("fierce striker") and concludes that "if his name has any relation to 'light' it more properly means 'lightning-flash' (as in Breton luc'h and Cornish lughes)".[30] However, Breton and Cornish are Brythonic languages in which Proto-Celtic *k did undergo systematic sound changes into -gh- and -ch-.

Words containing Lu, as in the word Lugh itself, or lo or le, have appeared for millennia always meaning light or sun or sun god. Luwian Apaliunas, Hurrian Aplu, Etruscan Apulu, Homeric Greek: Ἀπόλλων, that is λω, Latin Apollo. The form Apaliunas (]x-ap-pa-li-u-na-aš) is attested as a god of Wilusa in a treaty between Alaksandu of Wilusa interpreted as "Alexander of Ilios", and the Hittite great king Muwatalli II ca. 1280 BC.

Luwian is closely related to Hittite, and was among the languages spoken during the second and first millennia BC by population groups in central Anatolia, Anatolia (from Greek Aνατολή Anatolē—"East"; also Asia Minor. When the Illyrians migrated to Italy and founded Luceria in Apulia, a temple to Minerva was built. Minerva is the Etruscan and Roman equivalent of Athena. The arms (armament and weapons) of Diomedes, given to him by Athena in the Trojan War, were said to be were preserved in her temple.

The Lusitanians (or Lusitani in Latin) were an Indo-European people living in the Western Iberian Peninsula. Endovelicus was the most important god. António da Visitação Freire classified the name of "Endovelicus" as a mixed Celtic and Phoenician name, adapted to the Roman language. The "end-" radical would be from Celtic languages, "bel" (or "vel-") would be Phoenician for "lord", and "-cus" is a usual word termination in Latin. The name would suggest Bal, Bel, or Vel, the god Belenus (also Belenos) was a deity worshipped in Gaul, Britain, and Celtic areas of Austria and Spain. In the Roman period Belenus was identified with Apollo. Belisama has been claimed to be the consort of Belenus and she was identified with Minerva/Athena. It would seem that the word Lugh is related to every Indo-European language word meaning light.

Lugh's mastery of all arts has led many to link him with the unnamed Gaulish god Julius Caesar identifies with Mercury, whom he describes as the "inventor of all the arts".[31] Caesar describes the Gaulish Mercury as the most revered deity in Gaul, overseeing journeys and business transactions. Juliette Wood interprets Lugh's name as deriving from the Celtic root *lugios, "oath", and the Irish word lugh connotes ideas of "blasphemy, cussing, lies, bond, joint, binding oath",[32] which strengthens the identification with Mercury, who was, among other attributes, a god of contracts.

It is also worth noting that parallels exist between the Irish Lugh, Gaulish Lugus, German Wotan, the English Woden, and Norse Odin. Odin was worshipped by the Norse as a god of war among other things, including poetry and the arts. Odin may have replaced Tyr as god of war among north Germanic peoples. As such, it may be that Lugh was also worshipped as a god of war by the Irish. On that note it is worth noting that the ultimate Irish warrior hero Cu Chulainn is cited as the son of Lugh.

Sacred sites in Ireland[edit]

Some holy sites in Ireland are probably Christianised pagan sacred places originally cult centres for Lugh. Examples include Tynagh in County Galway.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Whitley Stokes (ed. & trans), "The Second Battle of Moytura", Revue Celtique 12, 1891, p. 59
  2. ^ Lebor Gabála Érenn §59
  3. ^ John O'Donovan (ed. & trans.), Annala Rioghachta Éireann: Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters Vol. 1, 1856, pp. 18–21, footnote S; T. W. Rolleston, Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race, 1911, pp. 109–112; Augusta, Lady Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men, 1094, pp. 27–29
  4. ^ e.g. Lebor Gabála Érenn §61; "The Fate of the Children of Tuirenn", Tom Peete Cross & Clark Harris Slover (eds.), Ancient Irish Tales, Henry Holt & Co., 1936, pp. 49–81
  5. ^ Vernam Hull (ed. & Trans.), "Aided Meidbe: The Violent Death of Medb", Speculum v.13 issue 1. (Jan. 1938), pp. 52–61
  6. ^ James MacKillop, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 273
  7. ^ "Deirdre, or the Exile of the sons of Usnech" (ed. & trans. unknown)
  8. ^ MacKillop 1998, pp. 102–104, 272–273
  9. ^ Stokes 1891, pp. 75–81
  10. ^ "The Fate of the Children of Tuirenn", Tom Peete Cross & Clark Harris Slover (eds.), Ancient Irish Tales, Henry Holt & Co., 1936, pp. 49–81
  11. ^ Stokes 1891, pp. 81–111
  12. ^ E. J. Gwynn (ed. & trans.), The Metrical Dindshenchas Vol 3, 1906, Poem 40: Carn Hui Neit
  13. ^ E. J. Gwynn (ed. & trans.), The Metrical Dindshenchas Vol 3, 1906, Poem 5: Nás
  14. ^ a b O'Curry tr., p.193, 192n "Scuabtuinné, that is, the Besom, or Sweeper of the Waves"
  15. ^ Vernam Hall ed.,tr., "The four jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann," Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 18 (1930) 73–89. "No battle was maintained against the spear of Lug or against him who had it in his hand,"
  16. ^ a b Macalister, R. A. S., ed. tr., Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book Of The Taking Of Ireland, Part IV (1941) [1] Lugh's spear is from Gorias in all three recensions (¶305, ¶315, ¶357). However, Hull's "Four Jewels" text swaps weapons between owners in the attached verse portion, making it Lug's sword that came from Gorias. Something similar happens in the verse invoked in Geoffrey Keating's History of Ireland, and in Comyn ed. tr., Lugh's sword is from Gorias, Lugh's spear is from Findias (Lugh becomes owner of both)
  17. ^ a b O'Curry, Eugene, ed. tr. "The Fate of the Chirdren of Tuireann", The Atlantis IV, London 1863, 157–240.
  18. ^ O'Duffy, Richard J. ed. tr., Oidhe Chloinne Tuireann. The Fate of the Children of Tuireann. Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, Dublin 1888
  19. ^ Joyce, P. W. (Patrick Weston), 1827–1914, tr. "The Fate of the Children of Turenn; or, The Quest for the Eric-Fine", Old Celtic Romances (3rd ed., 1907) (reprint 1920)
  20. ^ This tract was recapped by Hennessy, in his introduction, p.xiv, to his edition of Mesca Ulad. The tract occurs in the manuscript of TCD MS 1336 (olim H 3. 17) immediately after the h text of the Expulsion of the Déssi, Kuno Meyer, Anecdota, I, pp.15–24.
  21. ^ op. cit. ¶312, ¶312, ¶364
  22. ^ Gray, Elizabeth A. ed. tr., Cath Maige Tuired: the second battle of Mag Tuired ([Dublin]: Irish Texts Society [Series 52] 1982.), English
  23. ^ O'Curry, Eugene Manners and Customs II, 252. He translates 5 strophes from a poem from a vellum MS "formerly in the possession of Mr. W. Monck Mason, but lately sold at a public auction in London."
  24. ^ T. F. O'Rahilly, Early Irish History and Mythology (1946), pp.60–5
  25. ^ Charles Squire, Chapter 5 "The Gods of the Gaels" in The Mythology of the British Islands, 1905, republished as Celtic Myth and Legend, online at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cml/
  26. ^ Macalister ed., ¶319 (loc. cit.)
  27. ^ Stern, L. Chr. ed., tr. (into German), in: "Eine ossianische Ballade aus dem XII. Jahrhundert", Festschrift Whitley Stokes zum siebzigsten Geburtstage, 1900, pp. 7–12, edited from LL 207b
  28. ^ Wh. Stokes, Book of Lismore, fo. 153 b. recension of the ballad in the Notice on Festschrift above, in: Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie, III, p.432–
  29. ^ O'Curry, Eugene, "Tri Thruaighe na Scéalaigheachta (Three Sorrows of Storytelling)" The Atlantis III, London 1862, 396–7. The four verses excerpted do not include the hound's name.
  30. ^ Alexei Kondratiev (1997), Lugus: the Many-Gifted Lord. Retrieved 7 January 2006
  31. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 6:17
  32. ^ Alexander McBain (1982), An Etymological Dictionary of the Irish Language Section 25. Retrieved 7 January 2006

Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Cross, Tom Peete and Clark Harris Slover. Ancient Irish Tales, Henry Holt & Company, Inc., 1936. ISBN 1-56619-889-5.
  • Ellis, Peter Berresford. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-19-508961-8.
  • Kinsella, Thomas. The Táin, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969. ISBN 0-19-280373-5.
  • MacKillop, James. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-280120-1.
  • Ovist, Krista L. The integration of Mercury and Lugus: Myth and history in late Iron Age and early Roman Gaul. Chicago: University of Chicago Divinity School dissertation, pp. 703, 2004. (link)
  • Wood, Juliette. The Celts: Life, Myth, and Art. Thorsons Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-00-764059-5.
  • Lugh's Song, by T. Thorn Coyle, summarizes and recounts several of the myths about Lugh.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Nuada
High King of Ireland
AFM 1870–1830 BC
FFÉ 1447–1407 BC
Succeeded by
Eochaid Ollathair
Preceded by
Amergin Glúingel
Chief Ollam of Ireland
Mythological era
Succeeded by
Adna mac Uthidir